Debt free summer with new management and jets
Jat Airways is on course to become the first debt free airline in the former Yugoslavia after the Serbian government announced it will take over the airline’s entire debt. The carrier’s accumulated debt, which stretches back to Yugoslav times, amounts to 170 million euros. “It is important that the government has decided to take on the debt itself”, the Serbian Minister for Transport, Milutin Mrkonjić, said, adding that such a decision has been made in order to solve all problems relating to Jat. “Offcourse we will take over the entire debt. What can we do? Look for culprits and shove our heads in the sand again?” the minister asks.
The decision to take on Jat’s debt could have to do with talks which will be held this week between the Serbian government and Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi. The government has offered the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates a minority stake in the Serbian carrier in return for experienced pilots and land at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport for the construction of a cargo centre. Jat and Etihad have already exchanged information on bilateral agreements and international cooperation. Jat, whose two previous privatisation attempts failed, would be much more attractive to potential investors without the staggering debt it has to its name.
This Wednesday, the Serbian government is set to name a new CEO for Jat Airways in order to replace Vladimir Ognjenović, whose three year reign has been marred by mismanagement and recently crowned by a dire fleet shortage. Velibor Vukašinović is the government’s candidate to run the Serbian carrier. Mr. Vukašinović has never worked at Jat. He had trained at the flight academy in Zadar before completing a degree at the University of Belgrade, majoring in philosophy. He has worked as a test pilot at Serbia’s UTVA general aviation plane manufacturer. From 2004 until 2009 Mr. Vukašinović worked at the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate. He is currently a member of the task group in charge of restructuring Jat.